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In the press

Live Reviews: Suoni per il Popolo

Lawrence Joseph, Signal to Noise, no. 51, September 1, 2008

The eighth annual Suoni per il Popolo spanned a month and covered a huge range of musical genres. Over 50 concerts took place in two venues located across the street from each other in Montréal’s artist-filled Mile End neighborhood. It gave fans of free jazz, experimental rock, avant folk, contemporary classical, electronic, and improvised musics plenty to get excited about. Add a workshop with the Sun Ra Arkestra, street performance art, DJ sets and an outdoor day of music and children’s activities, and you have an unbeatably eclectic event. […]

The festival kicked off with two shows that exemplified what it does best. The more intimate Casa del Popolo was the venue for a free jazz blowout with saxophonist Glen Hall, bassist Dominic Duval, and drummer William Hooker, […] Hall keeps a relatively low profile, despite having studied with Ligeti and Kagel and played with the likes of Roswell Rudd, Jimmy Giuffre and John Scofield. The compositions in the first set paid tribute to some of his influences, while the second set shifted to freely improvised territory, with Montréal’s young trumpet luminary Gordon Allen sitting in to add blistering sound blasts and overblowing to the mix. At times this resembled the more noise-based music Hooker has made with Thurston Moore. […]

Allen was a fixture at the festival, playing in seven shows during the month, including guitarist Rainer Wiens’ version of Riley’s In C.

Another evening featured the debut of All Up In There, a trio of Allen, Michel F Côté on percussion, and Frank Martel on Theremin. Martel often played the theremin as if it were a stand-up bass, while Côté, when not playing kit, obtained a surprising variety of sounds from winging two mics around Pignose amps. The overall effect was more like a group of virtuosic Martians than a standard jazz trio. […]

Christof Migone’s performance piece Hit Parade took place outside on a busy Saint-Laurent Boulevard, taking over the sidewalk and one lane of traffic. Eleven people lay face down on the pavement, each pounding a microphone into the ground exactly one thousand times, at varying speeds. The sound of a giant asynchronous metronome prompted ironic thoughts in this listener about the usual meaning of the phrase “hit music,” and about pounding the pavement as a metaphor for life. […]

The Quatuor Bozzini, a string quartet dedicated to contemporary music, performed a selection of pieces by experienced improviser/composers. Malcolm Goldstein’s four-part structured improvisation A New Song of Many Faces for in These Times (2002) was by turns gentle and harsh, agitated and introspective, as melodic and rhythmic fragments were passed from one member of the quartet to another. Goldstein himself performed Hardscrabble Songs, a 13-minute solo piece for voice and violin. Jean Derome and Joane Hétu’s Le mensonge et l’identité (“Lies and Identity”) is an hour-long tour de force with a strong socio-political component. The Bozzinis’ spoken contributions (both live and on prerecorded tape) ranged from pithy quotes from philosophers and politicians to personal anecdotes. The music deliberately unraveled into chaos, the players moving music stands and chairs about the room in response to unsynchronized metronomes, tipping over stands as the scores on them were completed. […]

Quatuor Bozzini (Suoni Per Il Popolo)

Mathieu Bélanger, Panpot, June 3, 2008

So you missed this double effort, you say? Contributor Mathieu Bélanger provides a full rundown from a remarkably distinct evening of music.

On June 3rd, the Quatuor Bozzini with special guest Malcolm Goldstein performed at La Sala Rossa as part of the 8th edition of the Suoni Per Il Popolo. The concert happened in two parts. The first part featured two compositions of Malcolm Goldstein. The evening began with A New Song of Many Faces for in These Times, a string quartet the Quatuor Bozzini commissioned in 2002. Goldstein himself then played his Hardscrabble Songs. The second part saw the Quatuor Bozzini perform the North-American premiere of Jean Derome and Joane Hétu’s Le Mensonge et l’identité.

Malcolm Goldstein’s musical practice could be described as two-folded. The first aspect of his work relates to improvised music, that is music where no decisions are taken in advance in order to leave the sound follows its own path. The second aspect would encompass composition and scored pieces. Yet, such a distinction would be too simple for it would overlook one crucial fact: composition and improvisation, as a sound production method, are indissociable in Goldstein’s pieces. Indeed, these are structured improvisations. Here, a structured improvisation would be best-described as a piece whose overall structure is fixed through a score and is hence composed, but whose actual sound material is up to the musician and produced through improvisation.

Based on the above considerations, A New Song of Many Faces for in These Times is genuine Goldstein. As stated in the program notes, this string quartet comprises four sections (I. a gently flowing song; II. a brutal song; III. an agitated song; IV. a song of inner vision) and a coda. The score specifies the global development of the piece in addition to the sound signature of each section, but the specific sounds are left for the musicians to decide within the prescribed frame. The sections suggest various melodic lines and, through their sound signature, show them in different colors in accordance with their respective titles. Pizzicato notes and strong attacks and bow pressure give its brutality to the second section while the extensive use of sustained tones, muted strings and harmonics give a contemplative color to the fourth one. The coda, which amounts to about a quarter of the 19-minute piece, is a long rendition of a melody to which other segments taken from Ives and Beethoven — according to the program notes again as one can’t really identified them — are incorporated.

As a composition, Hardscrabble Songs is a series of four songs, each evoking aspects of the history and politics of the United States since the 1940s. It is of course no coincidence that the covered time frame goes from Goldstein’s youth up to now. Moreover, the word “song” is appropriate since they feature extensive lyrics and melodies although most of them are fractured and deconstructed through Goldstein’s unique style. For example, the first and last songs respectively reference Frank Sinatra’s The House I Live In (That’s America to Me) as well as The Star Spangled Banner and Jimi Hendrix. Interestingly, this particular interpretation of the Hardscrabble Songs put forward the words as they were pronounced with greater clarity than in previous times. In conjunction with the large space that is La Sala Rossa, it contributed to make Hardscrabble Songs softer.

Le Mensonge et l’identité, a 60-minute composition for string quartet and tape by Jean Derome and Joane Hétu, was premiered last April as part of the Forum Neuer Musik in Köln and was a commission of the Quautuor Bozzini and the Deutschlandfunk (that’s a radio by the way). As mentioned above, the Suoni Per Il Popolo marked its North-American premiere.

Le Mensonge et l’identité clearly puts forward a reflection on the notion of identity. This reflection happens on two levels — the identity of the individuals and that of the entity — and participates both to the form of the piece and to its musical content.

On the formal side, the composition is in three parts, each representing a step in the unraveling of the string quartet. In the first part, the music is strictly notated and the quartet plays a single entity, that is according to its traditional conception. The second part marks a certain departure from this unity while the third part irremediably breaks the string quartet as an entity into four singular entities: two violinists, a violist and a cellist. At this point, the musicians are no longer performing a common score through individual parts. Actually, they are no longer playing a part, but are simply playing individually. Not only could they choose to go to one of the 20 or so lecterns placed on the floor, but each presented them with a score made up of general indications. An improvisational component thus entered the picture.

This unraveling reflects itself in the scenic organization. In the first part, the musicians played side by side, faithfully to the traditional configuration of a string quartet. In opposition, during the third part, the four individuals were moving around on the “scene” — which was the floor of La Sala Rossa for the occasion — carrying lecterns from one point to the other, sometimes turning their back to the audience, etc.

On the content side, the individuality of the musicians is emphasized. On the tape, each introduced himself, both as a person and as a member of the Quatuor Bozzini. This statement included biographical information such a name, date and place of birth, civil status, ownership of domestic animals — Nadia Francavilla has two cats for example — reasons for playing in a string quartet, administrative role in the Quatuor Bozzini as a organism — Clemens Merkel is in charge of concerts abroad to mention but one —, etc. Moreover, each member used a different language: Italian for Isabelle Bozzini, French for Stéphanie Bozzini, German for Clemens Merkel and English for Nadia Francavilla.

Musically, the string work was on the soft and airy side. It actually was strangely reminiscent of Feldman’s later piece for strings in terms of touch and continuity, although without the perpetual permutation of patterns so typical of the late American composer. Strange because Derome and Hétu’s esthetics usually have little in common with Feldman’s, but nevertheless were pleasantly surprising. Speaking of Feldman, it is interesting to note that, at one point during the third part, violist Stéphanie Bozzini played for a few minutes a melody that was very reminiscent of the famous one that closes Rothko Chapel. On the other hand, the first part featured some quotes from the likes of physicist Hubert Reeves, comedian Brigitte Poupart and writer Madeleine Gagnon. Those inscribed themselves in an exploration of everyday nature quite prominent in Hétu’s work, and to a lesser extent in Derome’s, but proved to be less convincing in this particular composition for their effect withered quickly and their pertinence failed to establish itself.

According to the program notes, in Le Mensonge et l’identité, the string quartet, as an entity, is considered a microcosm of society. The exploration of identity that occupies the piece thus inherits a social dimension. Yet, the one question that is not addressed directly through the form and content of the piece, or at least the one that is not resolved explicitly, is that of the lie, of the “mensonge”. In the end, Le Mensonge et l’identité tends to suggest that the lie is the one we, as a society, have been building for ourselves and comforting ourselves in for the last 40 years by refusing to identify ourselves through society, that is by believing one’s identity can be independent of that of a more global ensemble to which we participate and which partly defines us…

… a remarkably distinct evening of music.


Pierre Durr, Revue & Corrigée, no. 63, March 1, 2005

Le violoniste et compositeur Malcolm Goldstein n’est pas un inconnu pour les lecteurs de Revue & Corrigée, ni pour les spectateurs qui suivent les programmations de musique contemporaine alternative sur les scènes hexagonales: Vandœuvre, Fresne-en-Woëvre, Strasbourg, Montreuil, Grenoble pour n’en citer que quelques points de chute. Interprète de John Cage, de James Tenney parmi d’autres compositeurs contemporains nord-americains, il pratique aussi l’improvisation, en soliste et avec divers partenaires, tels Matthias Kaul ou ses compatriotes d’adoption Rainer Wiens ou John Heward.

Le Quatuor Bozzini fréquente depuis peu les scènes contemporaines plus conventionnelles. Créé en 1998 par les soeurs Stéphanie et Isabelle Bozzini (respectivement à l’alto et au violoncelle) en partenariat avec les deux violonistes Clemens Merkel (d’origine allemande) et Geneviève Beaudry, il se consacre principalement mais non exclusivement au repertoire contemporain (George Crumb, Steve Reich) et a déjà travaillé avec (Tim Brady. La formation sera aussi a l’affiche à la fin de l’hiver au Montréal / Musiques Nouvelles, dans un programme associant les compositeurs Benedict Mason et Rene Koering ou en partenariat avec le Hilliard Ensemble. A New Song of many faces for In These Times, composition de Malcolm Goldstein et interprétée par le Quatuor, permet de réunir ces deux enregistrements. D’autant plus que les deux productions proposent chacune une version de cette pièce: la version figurant sur Hardscrabble Songs a été enregistrée en mai 2002, celle qui se trouve sur Portrait Montréal en août-septembre 2003, alors que la violoniste Nadia Francavilla a succédé à Geneviève Beaudry. Cette pièce met en jeu une forme d’improvisation structurée qui débute par une atmosphère un peu nonchalante (chant coulant) avant de démarrer un violent ballet ou s’entrecroisent rageusement les divers instrumentistes (chant brutal); puis la confrontation cède la place au chant tourmenté avant de finir sur une note plus optimiste (chant intime). Cette structure en quatre mouvements reprend quelque peu l’idée développée dans la pièce éponyme. En effet Hardscrabble songs, créée en 2000, évoque une certaine idee de l’Amérique véhiculée par quatre chansons, une Amérique dans laquelle les idéaux démocratiques sont dévoyés par des réalites moins reluisantes, où la spéculation boursière (le jeu de violon est déstructure évoquant l’âpreté de l’appât du gain) côtoient la pauvrete (jeu dur, grinçant, tendu, presque effrayant). Deux autres pièces évoquent cette Amérique, comme l’indique Malcolm Goldstein: la ségrégation raciale des années 50 avec My feed is tired, but my soul is rested avec sa ligne mélodique sous-jacente et empreinte de blues, l’hystérie anticommuniste puis antiterroriste dans Where are we going when we’re standing still, looking backwards sorte de boucle sonore offrant un travail plus tenu, plus minimal, parfois proche du silence, mais évolutive. Soundings est d’essence plus musicale, puisque, à l’image d’un ancien enregistrement de Malcolm Goldstein (Sounding the fragility of line, 1988), elle a pour but d’explorer uniquement divers approches sonores et interactives de l’instrument et de l’instrumentiste. Outre la piece de Malcolm Goldstein, deja evoquee, Portrait Montréal, premier enregistrement du Quatuor Bozzini, se consacre à trois compositeurs de la ville québeçoise. Pulau Dewata (l’île des dieux), inspire par la découverte de la culture balinaise est l’une des œuvres les plus emblématiques de Claude Vivier (compositeur assassiné à Paris en 1983 à 35 ans). La version pour quatuor à cordes (la pièce est prévue pour s’adapter à différents instruments) apparaît ici plus energique que celle, par exemple, du Nouvel Ensemble Moderne. Michael Oesterle, qui en a réalise l’arrangement, offre lui aussi une de ses compositions au Quatuor Bozzini, Daydream Mechanics V. Sur un mode répétitif (on y sent l’inspiration d’un Steve Reich) mais détourné par les interventions solistes, le quatuor explore un univers un peu trouble, mystérieux et halluciné. Le Quatuor à cordes no 2 de Jean Lesage, suite en 6 mouvements joue quant à lui sur des sonorités plus classiques d’un quatuor à cordes (pas de grincements par exemple) mais en provoquant des croisements subtils et complexes entre les quatre musiciens.

… des croisements subtils et complexes entre les quatre musiciens.

Goldstein’s Newly Singing Strings

Udo Kasemets, Musicworks, no. 84, September 1, 2002
The players’ individual intelligences, combined with their well-honed interactive abilities, provided a synergy that elevated each moment of the performance to a “truest possible” experience of music.